Recent comments made by the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation fell flat last week as Minister Bailey commented that despite a rising unemployment rate in Northern BC, they would be “fine”.
Nothing is “fine” about the latest jobs numbers for the Cariboo region and Prince George.
After being touted as being some of Canada’s best, this region has now become BC’s worst in terms of unemployment.
In March of 2023, the unemployment rate for Prince George is sitting at 6.2%, over a point higher than the national average and two points higher than the overall BC unemployment numbers.
The Cariboo is even worse at 7.1%
This should be no surprise.
Sawmill closures, forestry shut-downs, and pulp mill closures have plagued the area, and jobs have disappeared.
The Shadow Minister for Jobs, Todd Stone, has spoken out about the pressing need to address the economic peril of northern communities and the alarmingly high unemployment rates in those regions.
But perhaps this is simply a canary in the coal mine signalling the disconnect between government and what is happening in the economy of the north.
BC needs economic growth and job creation, not just in the public sector, but also in the private enterprises and industries. Without it, our economy will falter.
It has long been posited by economists that entrepreneurs and small businesses are necessary for any economy to have resilience, recovery after downturns or innovation.
In order to have these businesses, BC has to be attractive to investment and have a competitive environment.
BC is no longer doing either of those things.
What’s worse is the government doesn’t have a plan to stimulate the business community moving forward.
It is government’s responsibility to collaborate and find solutions that will not only address the current unemployment crisis but also foster long-term growth and prosperity for all regions of our province.
Furthermore, government has to invest in infrastructure projects, educational opportunities, and skills training to help diversify the northern economy and create much-needed employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, rather than focusing on creating a competitive advantage for business in BC, or investing in infrastructure to foster industry, the NDP government has been systematically adding to the bureaucracy that businesses must work within.
Adding additional costs and taxes, and burdening them while they suffer already difficult economic situations and escalating costs.
The other focus has been on creating a larger government.
The NDP government has increased government jobs by 120,000 positions or over 30% over the last six years, adding over 11 billion dollars of costs per year.
There is no plan for the decline of the forestry sector. There is no plan for the resource sector.
There is no plan for entrepreneurs or small businesses.
There are no plans.
There are lots of documents full of motherhood statements, pledges and other lofty goals, that don’t have any strategic path or outcomes-based measurement.
The results that were seen last week were skyrocketing unemployment numbers in hard hit areas of the resource sector.
To disregard those results with a token, “the north will be fine” is simply disrespectful and shows a lack of understanding of the issues.
BC needs an economic plan moving forward and a large bloated government is not an economic plan.
My question to you this week is this:
What industries would you like government to focus on supporting?
I love to hear from you, and I read every email.
Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call the office at 250-712-3620.